Is Changing Majors Worth The Cost?February 23, 2022
For some students, choosing a major is as simple as turning a lifelong passion into a career. But for most, it’s a decision that comes with a lot of second-guessing. Maybe that’s why many students end up changing majors in college before graduating.
But while it’s completely normal to decide on a different career path in the middle of earning your degree, it’s not a decision that should be made lightly. Changing your major can come with some significant financial consequences, so you’ll want to be completely sure before taking the plunge.
Here are some strategies you can use to help decide if you should stick with your current major or switch things up.
What to Do Before Changing Majors in College
The cost of changing majors in college can be more than you expected – and it can extend your graduation. Before you take the leap, go through the steps below to ensure it’s the right choice.
Talk to Your Advisors
Before changing your major, meet with your departmental academic advisors and discuss your options. Explain why you want to change your major, what you don’t like about your current choice, and what you’re looking for instead.
The cost of changing majors could add years and thousands of dollars, so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Your advisor can also help you understand what you’re looking for in a career and recommend a new academic direction.
If you’re interested in changing majors in college but don’t know what kind of career you want, talk to the college career counselor. They can help you explore different possibilities and find a major that overlaps with your interests.
In some cases, you may not need a different major to achieve your career goals. For example, if your current major is English and you decide you want to be a journalist, you don’t need to change your undergraduate degree to journalism. Instead, you can focus on writing for the school newspaper, finding journalism internships, and taking any journalism electives that may be available for non-journalism majors.
Conduct Your Own Research
You should do plenty of your own research before changing your major. Start by looking at job postings for the career you want and examining the degree requirements.
Many jobs have more flexible degree requirements than you may realize. For example, if a job posting says it wants a degree in education, psychology, or a related field, your sociology degree will likely count.
Talk to people in the industry who have more direct knowledge about what kind of degree you need. Some jobs only require a bachelor’s degree with no specific major, so changing majors won’t have an impact on your future career.
Consider Financial Aid Eligibility
Since the cost of changing majors can be high, you should try to minimize your student loan burden and maximize your financial aid.
For example, instead of changing majors, a common strategy for students who want to switch careers is to graduate with their current major and then apply to graduate school for their new major.
But not all careers require a graduate degree, so this strategy may be more expensive than simply changing your undergraduate degree. Also, some state and federal grants, including the Pell Grant, are only available to undergraduate students. And undergraduate degree credits are often less expensive than graduate credits.
Again, talk to an advisor who can guide you through the least expensive and most efficient options.
Add a Minor or Certificate
If you’re close to graduating, changing your major could delay graduation by a couple of years. If you only have a semester or two left, it may be better to stay on your current path, graduate, and then get a certificate in the major you really want.
Or instead of changing your major, another option is to add a minor in the field in which you’re now interested. This will be much faster and much less expensive than adding another major.
When It’s Worth Switching Majors in College
Sometimes, switching majors in college is the right decision, even with the added time and cost.
When You’re Struggling with Classes
If you’re not doing well in the foundational courses related to your degree, you may find difficulty with the more intense required courses in your junior and senior years.
For instance, students who are failing intro biology classes may be interested in switching majors in college from biology to a subject in which they feel more comfortable.
When You Need a Specific Degree
While some careers have vague degree requirements, other industries are more specific. For example, if you’re majoring in business but interested in becoming an engineer instead, you’ll need an engineering degree. You’ll find it nearly impossible to get an engineering job without an academic background in engineering.
Meet with an advisor who can help you understand if you need a specific degree or if you can get by with your current one.
How ELFI Can Help
When switching majors in college, you could end up paying much more than you thought. Sometimes a different degree can result in tens of thousands in extra student loans.
If you have to take on more student debt because of changing your major, you may be worried about paying back your loans after graduation. However, you could always refinance the student loans to potentially get a lower rate.
Consider how much you could save. For example, let’s say you have $50,000 in student loans with a 10-year term and a 9% interest rate. If you refinanced to a 4% interest rate and a 10-year term, you would pay $15,258 less in total interest over the life of the loan. Your monthly payments would also be $127 less.
ELFI will match you with a personal loan advisor to walk you through the refinance process step-by-step.*